Yellowstone is one of the best known national parks in the United States, and for good reason. It’s a massive national park full of rivers, geysers, lakes and mountains, so it has something to offer to everyone.
Whether you’re looking to climb Yellowstone’s tallest peaks or just want to admire those colorful hot springs, you’ll find some interesting trails here. Our guide to the best hikes in Yellowstone features lots of geysers, waterfalls, wildlife and some of the best views in the entire NP!
Dress in layers. The weather in Yellowstone is unpredictable – it can be a beautiful morning, followed by rain showers out of the blue. Because of that, it is smart to dress in layers and always carry a waterproof jacket. I would recommend that you pack a jacket that is also windproof, especially if you plan on climbing tall peaks. Mountain peaks tend to be windy and colder than the rest of the park and you should be adequately prepared.
Don’t be put off by the smell. Yellowstone is best known for the abundance of hot springs and geysers. And while they are beautiful to observe, they smell really bad. That’s because of the sulfuric acid and hydrogen sulfide gas that smell just like rotten eggs. If you want to do several hikes in Yellowstone and see some of the most beautiful geothermal springs, this is something you’ll have to get used to.
There is no public transport in the national park. Yellowstone’s main road is the Grand Loop, and it takes anywhere between 4 and 7 hours to cover it fully. If you are planning to hike in different areas of the park, your best option is to rent a car. Especially because there’s no dedicated road for cyclists – they must drive on the main road with the vehicles, and that’s not exactly safe.
Watch out for bears. Yellowstone park is known for presence of bears, and it’s highly recommended that you bring bear spray wherever you go. Also, if you’re alone on the trail, it’s a good idea to be as loud as possible. That will alert any bears in the vicinity to your presence so they’re less likely to be scared. Some of the trails are occasionally closed off because of bear activity, so double check that before you set out on any hike.
The Beaver Ponds Loop trail is one of the many hikes in the Mammoth Hot Springs area. It is a moderately difficult hike that takes about 3 hours to finish, and it’s also quite popular for horseback riding. The elevation gain is only about 230 meters, which is barely noticeable over the entire course of the trail.
The trailhead is near Hymen Terrace, which happens to be another popular tourist attraction in the area. The loop trail mostly goes through an open area, so be sure to put on lots of sunscreen. Only a couple kilometers that pass through the forest have any shade – the rest of the hike is completely exposed.
The most interesting part of this hike are the two beaver dams at the 5 kilometer marker – that’s actually where the trail gets its name from. You might spot a beaver or two here, but only if you’re lucky. Some people have reported seeing elk, ducks, squirrels and even bears, but a lot of people didn’t encounter any wildlife along the way at all.
The Electric Peak trail is perfect for backpackers who are looking for a true challenge. It is more than 32 kilometers long, and it will take you a solid 12 hours to get to Electric Peak and return to the trailhead. Pack plenty of food and water and get a good night’s sleep before you set out on the Electric Peak trail!
You can even turn this into a two-day backpacking trip – there’s a camp near the peak where you can spend the night. Bear in mind that this is a hike on rocky terrain that includes scrambles and it’s physically challenging. By the time you climb the summit to enjoy those spectacular views of the park, it’s likely you’ll be exhausted – and then you have to head back and spend another 4-5 hours hiking.
The trail passes through fields, follows river valleys and creeks, and even through a forest. It has everything you could possibly want, from panoramic views to wildlife and gorgeous flowers. But it’s also steep, rocky and challenging, so those rewards can be reaped only by the most experienced hikers.
The out and back trail to the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring lookout is one of Yellowstone’s most iconic hikes. It is very popular, so expect lots of people – the only chance you have of being alone on the trail is if you head there very early on a weekday. Otherwise it’s going to be very crowded – everyone wants the best view of Yellowstone’s colorful hot spring!
This a simple trail you can cover in less than an hour, and it is perfectly suitable for beginners. Kids are more than welcome, but they should be careful on the boardwalk as there’s no railing. The trailhead is at a parking lot near Firehole River.
The hiking trail follows a wide dust road up to an overlook where you have spectacular views of the Grand Prismatic geyser. The only downside is that there’s very little shade along the way – the trail is at the edge of the forest, and only a few sections are near trees. Wear a hat and put on sunscreen, especially if you are doing this hike in the middle of the day!
The Seven Mile Hole trail is one of the lesser known hikes in Yellowstone. It’s great for people who want to get off the beaten path, and especially for those who want to avoid overcrowded hiking trails. Considering that this one is pretty steep and rocky at times, and that it includes climbing, it is only suitable for experienced hikers.
The beginning and the end of the trail are the best when it comes to beautiful views. You can see the falls and you get a stunning view of the canyon. The final section of the hike features a steep descent – I highly recommend hiking poles, to make this section as easy as possible.
That steep descent turns into an even steeper ascent on your way back since you follow the same path back to the trailhead. Also, the Seven Mile Hole trail has a decent amount of shade – parts of it go through a forest, but certain sections are entirely exposed. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen before you set out on the hike!
This hike in Yellowstone is awesome if you want to see a beautiful canyon and some stunning waterfalls. It is a moderately difficult trail with some steep climbs and descents, so it’s not a bad idea to bring your favorite walking poles on the hike.
There are several lookout points on this trail that offer spectacular views of Yellowstone’s gorgeous nature. It’s worth mentioning that you could just drive to each lookout point if you’re in it just for the views, but hiking makes the whole experience more rewarding. The trailhead is at a parking lot off South Rim Drive, and right off the bat you’re greeted with some stunning vistas.
Most of the trail goes through a forest, so there is quite a lot of shade. And there are three main points of interest along the way – Upper Yellowstone Falls, Lower Yellowstone Falls and Artist Point. It’s worth noting that all the lookout points tend to be crowded, especially if you’re doing the hike in the middle of the summer.
There’s no shortage of tall peaks in Yellowstone and they all offer stunning panoramic views. If that’s your thing, the Avalanche Peak trail is a hike that you’re going to love. The trail is accessible from May to September, and even then you’re likely going to encounter some snow along the way. It can also be windy at the top, and I highly recommend you pack some warm clothes in your backpack.
The trail is steeper than you think, and you won’t be able to do it without some really good hiking boots. You might even want to bring walking poles, as they will make the descent much easier and quicker.
The trailhead is near Eleanor Lake, so you kick things off with some stunning lake views. And they just get better the more you spend on the trail, so try to find it in you to make it to the end. For a moment there, you will feel like you are on top of the world.
West Thumb Geyser Basin trail is an easy hike across a boardwalk suitable for all skill levels. It takes about half an hour to do the entire hike, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for something quick and easy in this part of the park. And if you’re looking for the best Yellowstone Lake views, you should definitely make this walk a priority.
There are quite a few geysers in the area so expect a strong rotten egg smell. West Thumb is right on the lake and it is easily the most impressive sight here. After all, it is the largest geyser basin on the shore of Yellowstone Lake.
Parking is easy to find since there’s a massive parking lot just a few minutes away from the boardwalk. You don’t need to make any reservations and there’s no entrance fee – if you want a fun walk that you can with the entire family without a lot of planning, the West Thumb Geyser Basin certainly won’t disappoint.
The Fairy Falls trail is an easy out and back hike suitable for all skill levels. It features wildflowers, waterfalls, hot springs, a river and wildlife, if you’re lucky. This is one of the trails that is periodically closed off due to bear activity, so don’t forget that bear spray!
The first section of the hiking trail is the exact same one that takes you to the Grand Prismatic Pool lookout. But if you want to see some beautiful waterfalls, you must continue hiking past the lookout. The trail turns sharply left a little before the 2 kilometer marker, and it continues straight for more than two kilometers. It is bit boring in terms of terrain and difficulty, but it does feature some beautiful views along the way.
The waterfall is stunning, and you will even pass by some geysers along the way. There are also lots of wildflowers on the trail, but not many trees. Most of the trail is exposed and wearing a hat is highly recommended.
Lone Star Geyser trail is an easy hike anyone can do. The trailhead is at a parking lot near Kepler Cascades, and for the most part the trail just follows Firehole River. You will have to cross the river a few times, so waterproof hiking boots with good traction are a must.
Lone Star is one of Yellowstone’s weirdest and most impressive geysers. It usually erupts around 10AM, so you probably want to set out on the trail a little before 9AM, just to be on the safe side. The trail leading up to the geyser is paved for the most part and there’s lots of shade along the way, so it should be an enjoyable hike even for beginners. Bear in mind that the geyser normally erupts every three hours, so it might be smart to ask people you encounter on the trail when it last erupted.
You might see some wildlife along the way – people reported seeing elk and bison minding their own business near the river. It can get a bit crowded at times, but otherwise it’s a peaceful and quiet hike that is easy to enjoy.
The Mystic Falls trail is a quick and easy hike suitable for everyone, including total hiking newbies. The 4 kilometer out and back trail can be covered in just about an hour, but it s nonetheless quite rewarding. Not only does it take you to beautiful waterfalls, but you can also see several geysers along the way.
For the most part this is an easy hike, but there are a few segments where you must be careful. It is quite steep towards the end, and it’s a bit narrow at times. However, it’s nothing too scary – if you’re a hiking beginner wondering whether to do this hike, don’t hesitate. If you are aware of your surroundings, you shouldn’t have any problems.
You can return the same way you came, or you can continue hiking the loop. It eventually reaches an observation deck that offers some gorgeous views, and it doesn’t add too much extra time to the hike.
Bunsen Peak trail is another great hike for people who are looking for something more challenging. It features a total elevation gain of almost 400 meters over just 7 kilometers, so it’s not a great option for beginners. The trail is rated as moderately difficult due to the steep incline and all the switchbacks towards the end, but it is not too strenuous. This is one of the best trails if you’re looking for something quick and simple, but that really pays off.
The terrain is a dirt path for the most part, with some sections that feature roots and rocks. The ascent is gradual at the beginning, but near the 2 kilometer marker it starts to get steeper and steeper. And it’s without a doubt worth it to put in the effort to get to the end because the views from the top of Bunsen Peak are phenomenal.
The trail features lake and geyser views, as well as lots of wildflowers and some wildlife. Some people even reported seeing a black bear, so remember to put that spray in your backpack! You can follow the same path back to the parking lot – it’s a lot easier and quicker when you’re descending rather than climbing.